Free Press Journal

Railways gets separate safety fund for network upgradation


New Delhi: Faced with a series of derailments, Railways today got a much needed separate fund for safety upgradation of the rail network as the budget proposed an outlay of Rs 1 lakh crore for the purpose.

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The proposals suggested by the railways have all, more or less, been included and acted upon by the Finance Ministry, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said here.

Rail Budget merged with the General Budget has announced Rs 20,000 crore for the next fiscal for safety upgradation.

Welcoming the creation of the separate safety fund, Prabhu said, “We have been writing to the Finance Ministry for the special safety fund and it was announced today.”

Railways will get Rs 20,000 crore each year for the next five years out of which Rs 15,000 crore will be from gross budgetary support (GBS) and Rs 5,000 crore has to be generated through internal resources.

Prabhu said the special fund will not only strengthen the safety of rail network it will also help increasing the speed of trains.

On the merger of Rail Budget with General Budget, he said, “Railways’ functional autonomy will continue. It was legacy and nowhere railways has a separate budget. Now there will be an integated approach to transportation, including rail, road, aviation and waterways.”

Prabhu said railways will no longer pay dividends to Finance Ministry after the merger. Railways is likely to save Rs 9,500 crore by not paying dividends.

Railways also got Rs 1.31 lakh crore as the capital expenditure, a substantial increase of Rs 10,000 crore for the next fiscal as compared to the last fiscal.

The GBS for the 2017-18 is Rs 55,000 crore, an increase of Rs 10,000 crore from the fiscal 2016-17.

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Describing the increase in capital expenditure as “substantial”, he said it will be used for automation and capacity augmentation.

In order to encourage digital transaction, government has announced waiving off the service charge on e-ticketing through IRCTC. “This has been done to promote cashless transaction,” he said.

IRCTC is likely to lose about Rs 500 crore a year due to the waiving off the service charge.

Budget has announced listing of three railways PSUs– IRCTC, IRFC and IRCON–in share markets and converting 500 stations as disabled-friendly ones.

Focusing on cleanliness, all coaches will be equipped with bio-toilets by 2019. Railways has also introduced “Clean my coach” app.

Prabhu also mentioned about the joint participation with several state governments to execute rail projects.

On station redevelopment, Prabhu said bidding process for developmeng 23 stations will begin soon.